Groundbreaking at last / Ceremony marks start of hospital project

Around 90 people converged early Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 14, on the southwest corner of Industrial Road and U.S. High?way 56 to witness or participate in the long-awaited groundbreaking ceremony for the new $10 million Hillsboro Community Hospital.

The facility is being constructed by its private-industry owner, HMC/CAH Consolidated, based in Kansas City.

Armed with hot coffee and cider in commemorative HCH mugs, participants braved a modest north wind and temperatures in the upper 20s to observe the symbolic start of construction of the 15-bed critical-access hospital.

Following the playing of the national anthem by the Hills?boro High School band and a prayer by Zion Lutheran Church pastor Brad Huebner, HCH Chief Executive Officer Mike Ryan greeted the small crowd and introduced special guests.

Among those offering comments were Larry Arthur, HMC/CAH president, State Rep. Bob Brookens and Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke.

Arthur said the new facility should enable the company to provide health-care services to the area for at least the next 30 years. He credited the community of Hillsboro and the staff of HCH for the making the groundbreaking possible after an extended delay to find funding through USDA Rural Develop?ment.

Brookens commended and congratulated the community of Hillsboro.

?People would ask me when this day would come,? he said. ?I always told them I didn?t know when, but I knew it would come.?

Dalke credited the community?s rich health-care tradition through the decades for making possible the groundbreaking.

A mix of local, corporate and government officials then donned hardhats and grabbed shovels and turned sod.

Among those participating in the ceremony was Mike Redden, chosen by HCH employees to represent them. Redden has the longest employment history with the organization, coming on board in 1979.

The new state-of-the-art facility should be completed in about one year, Arthur told onlookers.

The roots of health-care in Hillsboro, and Hillsboro Community Hospital in particular, go back to the late 19th century, when Krimmer Mennonite Brethren settlers established an orphanage south of town.

Salem Deaconess Hospital was established in Hillsboro during 1920 at the corner of Main and D streets.

In the mid-1950s, Salem Hospital was incorporated by 11 local churches and a new facility was constructed at the south end of Main, where it currently operates.

When Salem Hospital was facing financial difficulties in the mid-1990s, the city stepped in with the formation of the Public Building Commission to acquire the facilities in 1998. The hospital was renamed Hillsboro Community Medical Center shortly thereafter.

HMC/CAH purchased the operation of the hospital in summer 2008, changed the name to Hillsboro Community Hospital, and had been working since then to secure funding for the new facility amid a national recession.

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